PUSHING THE RIVER

Lowetide
January 01 2014 11:01AM

I think we've established that Taylor Hall is unlikely to make the Olympic team—he's on my team without a throw—but as the calendar turns it's important to keep in mind what Hall's been through this season, and what he's been doing recently.

TAYLOR HALL BY MONTH, 2013-14

Early in the season he was a center, and then he suffered an injury. Although he didn't miss a lot of time (7 games), it certainly had an impact when he returned to play. Still, Hall has been improving and recently has been very good, especially at evens (he has 11 of the team's 81 even-stength goals). In Hall's last 6 games, he's 3-7-10 +4. Things aren't back to normal (his Corsi For % at 5x5/close is lagging from previous seasons) but he's trending in a good direction.

I'd love to see him at the Olympics, but Hall's performances for the Oilers are the real thrill for this fan. Taylor Hall is a difference maker, and the team's recent record (2-0-2 in the last four game) has a lot to do with #4.

Even having a season that looks wonky based on his own established levels, Hall is one of the top players in the game (76th in GVT right now and trending) and if Team Canada passes on him they're addled.

HE CAN'T PLAY DEFENSE!

The 'he can't play defense' argument went full sail during the WHC's last year, when Lindy Ruff chose to hamstring his own team and move Hall down the depth chart. Hall's ability to push the river and help possession makes him BETTER than a defensive forward—the best defense is a good offense—and hockey fans can go overboard making this argument.

Example: Gretzky. People would bitch and moan about his ability to play defense, completely disregarding the fact that the puck was rarely in Edmonton's zone with 99 on the ice. I know, I was there and I did it! Today's modern metrics allow me to understand that Gretzky's offense was so good that the defensive side of the game was reduced markedly with him as part of the solution (that became less of a factor as time wore on, but as an Oiler the ice was tilted in a major way—more than at any other time in history is my guess).

Now, I'm not comparing Hall to Gretzky, but the dynamics are the same. What Hall does well (drives defensemen back, opening up space for zone entries on sorties) has extreme value in possession metrics, and pushes the river in Edmonton's favor. Now, they don't do enough with it, but that's another discussion.

If the group choosing Team Canada focuses on that, Hall makes this team in a breeze.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

My guess is Team Canada passes on Hall, and that he uses it as fuel to punish the hockey world. As an Oiler fan, that's the best thing about looking forward to 2014.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#101 Kr55
January 01 2014, 10:56PM
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Alsker wrote:

Not to mention someone to blame for the f*ckups.

Gags -2 last game looking as clueless as he usually does in his own end. Eakins is talking today like Yak is getting a great opportunity again next game playing with Gagner. As you said, when Gags doesn't do his job in our end AGAIN, it will be Yak sitting out. Did I miss something? Is Gags buddies with Katz now? Did he move into Horc's old house? Something is completely off here.

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#102 Alsker
January 01 2014, 11:07PM
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Kr55 wrote:

Gags -2 last game looking as clueless as he usually does in his own end. Eakins is talking today like Yak is getting a great opportunity again next game playing with Gagner. As you said, when Gags doesn't do his job in our end AGAIN, it will be Yak sitting out. Did I miss something? Is Gags buddies with Katz now? Did he move into Horc's old house? Something is completely off here.

Damn, was really hoping Horak was up so Gags could spend some time in the attic since Arco's not ready yet. Well lets hope next fall there is a line with Yakimov-Yakapov-Ebs...would at least be crazy entertaining.

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#103 dougtheslug
January 01 2014, 11:28PM
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Impartial Oilers Fan wrote:

Can someone please explain why fans and bloggers believe that they're smarter and know more about hockey than the guys in charge of picking the Olympic team?!

I do not understand how fans have an blind belief in players, specifically like Hall and Yakupov. These fans that come across like hockey mom's talking about their own son's, spouting off that they are better than kids picked on a team that their son wasn't.

So, do tell, why are these fans and bloggers not seeing the same flaws in Hall and Yakupov that some of the most important and influential minds in hockey are seeing?

Obviously standard stats aren't the sole criteria, otherwise Hall would be a lock apparently. And its not a anti-Russian thing, because even Russian's own Olympic committee was talking about the glaring deficiencies in Yakupov's game. Yet, everyone that loves to scream YakCity before he's even proved anything substantial, think that its only a Russian bias as to why he needs to improve and drop the prima donna act in the media.

So again, please, inform me why fans and bloggers are right about Hall and Yakupov and their respective Olympic selection committees don't see them the same way??

I'll tell you why. In Turin in 2006 Olympic brains trust (coincidently, lead by ex- Oilers Gretzky and Lowe) decided to let loyalty to the past govern their team selection and chose veterans like Kris Draper and Todd Bertuzzi as well as a host of slow footed d-men to the team, rather then a new generation of forwards (young players have terrific years like Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal and Marc Savard).

Their selections were hotly debated and criticized and as it turned out, for good reason - on the larger ice surface the team's lack of speed was exposed woefully -they were shutout by the Finns and Swiss and barely edged the Czechs in the preliminary round, and were shutout again by the Russians in the quarter final.

The Sochi Olympics will be very different than Vancouver (horrendous time change, hostile crowd and outside distractions, larger ice surface). Are the current NHL executives choosing team Canada creative enough to consider these differences, or will they, like they have in the past, end up designing their tactics for the previous battle.

In my humble opinion, a topic well worth debating.

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#104 The Oilers Shot Clock
January 02 2014, 02:54AM
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dougtheslug wrote:

I'll tell you why. In Turin in 2006 Olympic brains trust (coincidently, lead by ex- Oilers Gretzky and Lowe) decided to let loyalty to the past govern their team selection and chose veterans like Kris Draper and Todd Bertuzzi as well as a host of slow footed d-men to the team, rather then a new generation of forwards (young players have terrific years like Sidney Crosby, Eric Staal and Marc Savard).

Their selections were hotly debated and criticized and as it turned out, for good reason - on the larger ice surface the team's lack of speed was exposed woefully -they were shutout by the Finns and Swiss and barely edged the Czechs in the preliminary round, and were shutout again by the Russians in the quarter final.

The Sochi Olympics will be very different than Vancouver (horrendous time change, hostile crowd and outside distractions, larger ice surface). Are the current NHL executives choosing team Canada creative enough to consider these differences, or will they, like they have in the past, end up designing their tactics for the previous battle.

In my humble opinion, a topic well worth debating.

Rob Zamuner made an NHL eligible Olympic team. The brain trust has a history of outsmarting itself. World Junior selections will always be so political that on any given year, the kids left off might be able to beat the team we send. Putting faith in the selection process is like putting faith in the government. It's just too big of a monster to really fully trust.When we win at any level we do it despite ourselves.

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#105 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 06:39AM
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The Olympic was and continues to be plagued by two things:

old boy network favoritism -Nagano and Turin being the most egregious examples but not the only ones.

Too conservative an approach - this is understandable as the pressure on the group picking the team is enormous and taking a chance that ends in failure can tarnish ones future in the team canada management.

Both of those factors weigh against halls selection as he is outside the eastern based old boy network that currently has the lead in picking the team. And he definitely would be seen as a risky option.

I had a brief on air discussion about hall in the Olympics with stauffer a few weeks ago. He broached the idea of a line with Seguin hall and duschene. IMO that would be a very lethal trio that would terrorize opponents especially on the wide Olympic ice. But there is no way in hell the cardinals will take that chance.

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#106 Bryzarro World
January 02 2014, 07:08AM
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@Serious Gord

You remind me of Adil, that brown dude from Millwoods that trolls the edmonton air waves to hear his own voice.

You might accomplish something good if you focused your energy on something worth it instead of worrying about these jokers.

That being said, sometimes I agree with you and sometimes I think you're so far out to lunch that I just have to shake my head.

Have a good one Gordo

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#107 Rdubb
January 02 2014, 07:45AM
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Bryzarro World wrote:

You remind me of Adil, that brown dude from Millwoods that trolls the edmonton air waves to hear his own voice.

You might accomplish something good if you focused your energy on something worth it instead of worrying about these jokers.

That being said, sometimes I agree with you and sometimes I think you're so far out to lunch that I just have to shake my head.

Have a good one Gordo

as I was reading your comment I found myself "somewhat" agreeing with you, until your 2nd last line when you said you "sometimes agree"...it is my opinion that this serious gord character is generally so far out to lunch it is pitiful, and when he cannot beat you in an argument, he'll try and pick apart ones punctuation, why, just to make himself feel better. When gord does this, he proves to me to be woefully inadequate in talking about sports, thus he must be a teacher or professor of English lit or something along those lines... Generally, the un-educated sports babble that he tries to discuss has most of the sports educated people giggling like school girls. It is obvious that gord has never donned the pads or equipment of any real sport, & if he did, he sat in the corner... just an observation from the stuff written and his responses to people. "when you can't beat them, pick apart their grammar" is the quote he lives by...

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#108 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 07:46AM
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Bryzarro World wrote:

You remind me of Adil, that brown dude from Millwoods that trolls the edmonton air waves to hear his own voice.

You might accomplish something good if you focused your energy on something worth it instead of worrying about these jokers.

That being said, sometimes I agree with you and sometimes I think you're so far out to lunch that I just have to shake my head.

Have a good one Gordo

I remember adil (sp?). What ever happened to him?

As for my efforts on sports commentary - they are a hobby/distraction from the other things I do - raising a family; running my small business; working on policy for certain political parties, interest groups and business sectors. I like to think I have and continue to achieve things of value in those realms.

And I do hope that I have some small impact on how the oil is run. If I in some small way influence fan and media opinion that in turn holds the teams management more to account and thus makes them More circumspect in their actions then I have accomplished a lot.

And make no mistake the fans mood and opinion has a large bearing on how the teams management acts. The pseudo apologies by Klowe after his six rings comment and Eakins after he called the jersey tossed a quitter and an isolated incident both happened because of fan outrage.

Finally, I can say with confidence that the writing and speaking I do on the blogs and on air has been excellent training and exercise for the work I do on policy and in politics. It has indeed benefitted me greatly when I have needed to be quick at a microphone in policy debates and conferences.

And I won't deny that its fun to hear from friends and acquaintances and even people I am newly introduced to who make the affiliation of me with my serious Gord output. It definitely makes for some engaging one on one conversations.

(And for those who want to but feel a lack of courage to call in to one of the talk radio shows I wholeheartedly encourage you to muster up some and give it a shot - I know from talking to the screeners and hosts that there is a huge hunger for quality fan call-ins and that they would welcome input from knowledgable readership/commenters like that on ON. Try it - they don't bite)

And thanks for listening/reading.

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#109 Serious Gord
January 02 2014, 07:58AM
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Rdubb wrote:

as I was reading your comment I found myself "somewhat" agreeing with you, until your 2nd last line when you said you "sometimes agree"...it is my opinion that this serious gord character is generally so far out to lunch it is pitiful, and when he cannot beat you in an argument, he'll try and pick apart ones punctuation, why, just to make himself feel better. When gord does this, he proves to me to be woefully inadequate in talking about sports, thus he must be a teacher or professor of English lit or something along those lines... Generally, the un-educated sports babble that he tries to discuss has most of the sports educated people giggling like school girls. It is obvious that gord has never donned the pads or equipment of any real sport, & if he did, he sat in the corner... just an observation from the stuff written and his responses to people. "when you can't beat them, pick apart their grammar" is the quote he lives by...

Please cite the case where I have ever attacked ones punctuation/grammar.

There are indeed instances where I rebut someone's argument because they have used language or terms that over-reached - but that is not the same as what you assert I to.

As for my lack of on ice experience, I would point out that in sports as in eggs you do not have be able to play or lay to judge and comment.

Not that I am comparing myself to them - but many commenters on sports have never played the game - Howard Cosell - he wrote a book using that as its title; John Shannon doesn't even know how to skate.

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#110 Romanus
January 02 2014, 11:08AM
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Kr55 wrote:

Gags -2 last game looking as clueless as he usually does in his own end. Eakins is talking today like Yak is getting a great opportunity again next game playing with Gagner. As you said, when Gags doesn't do his job in our end AGAIN, it will be Yak sitting out. Did I miss something? Is Gags buddies with Katz now? Did he move into Horc's old house? Something is completely off here.

Yaks had the worst +/- well before he played with Gags. We just have more than one guy lost in his own end.

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#111 outdoorzguy
January 03 2014, 04:10PM
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Hall is about as much of an Olympian as I am!! Are you kidding me you actually think he has the skill to play on that scene?

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#112 Zarny
January 03 2014, 04:29PM
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Hall will be in the conversation but in the end the process will leave him off the team.

He has 88 pts in his last 81 games and the highest pt/gm for LW over the last year. But he's only 22 and was the youngest player at the orientation camp by almost a year.

He also has no playoff experience so it's unlikely Hockey Canada would put on one of the top 2 lines. His struggles at the WHC and his weaknesses over 200 ft make him an unlikely candidate for the 3rd or 4th line.

For Oiler fans however, Hall has shown that he is the real deal. Another 2 years experience and he'd be a lock for the Olympic team.

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